Wallabies centre Tevita Kuridrani's form catapults him closer to new ARU contract
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Wallabies centre Tevita Kuridrani's form catapults him closer to new ARU contract

Bullocking Wallabies centre Tevita Kuridrani's spectacular Test form is set to land him the biggest deal of his career as the ARU ramps up negotiations to keep the back-line powerhouse beyond the end of next year.

Kuridrani still has a year remaining on his match-payment deal with the Australian Rugby Union and his contract with the ACT Brumbies.

Tevita Kuridrani is in contract negotiations which would secure him a massive payday.

Tevita Kuridrani is in contract negotiations which would secure him a massive payday.

But his form has been so good, the ARU want to lock in the Fijian-born outside centre until at least the end of 2017 on an upgraded deal, which could start as early as January.

Former Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock has backed Kuridrani as Australia's long-term answer to the No.13 jersey, declaring that his explosive power could be a game-breaker at the World Cup next year.

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Stirling Mortlock has given Kuridrani the tick of approval to be the long-term Wallabies outside centre.

Stirling Mortlock has given Kuridrani the tick of approval to be the long-term Wallabies outside centre.Credit:AP

Kuridrani has all but cemented his place in the Wallabies' starting XV and will get another chance to shine when they play the All Blacks in Brisbane on Saturday night.

It's a major turnaround less than two years after he considered a switch to European rugby before he re-signed with the Brumbies.

Kuridrani's current deal is based on match payments for each Test he plays, but he doesn't have a base ARU contract.

The Brumbies will have to wait for ARU negotiations to be finalised, but an upgraded deal would give the 23-year-old stability, and Mortlock believes Kuridrani is only starting his international journey.

"He's certainly making the No.13 jersey his own," Mortlock said.

"I was always pretty impressed with his natural skills and attributes ... then there's his size. He's going to keep filling out and getting bigger too.

"He's an extremely big bloke and has enough speed and pace to expose defences. He's only going to get more damaging physically as he fills out."

Kuridrani has played 16 Tests since making his debut against New Zealand last year.

The Wallabies have been searching for a mid-field battering ram since Mortlock retired, and at 102 kilograms and 196 centimetres, Kuridrani fits perfectly into the position.

He was arguably the Wallabies' best player in their past two losses, to South Africa and Argentina, making 16 tackle busts against the Springboks in Cape Town last month.

However, Kuridrani was initially overlooked at the start of the Rugby Championship, with coach Ewen McKenzie opting to use Adam Ashley-Cooper at outside centre.

Kuridrani admitted being "scared" when he got a shock Wallabies call-up last year. But Mortlock is confident the softly spoken former Australian under-20s representative can take his game to a new level to help the Wallabies chase World Cup glory.

"I think Tevita still needs to work on his game. Naturally, he's attacking and looks for offloads," Mortlock said. "The challenge at Test level is having that expansive nature and exposing opportunities, but you have to minimise errors because they can be significantly punished.

"At the World Cup, I still think it would be nice to see one or two other players have physical dominance like Tevita, to make it easier for the ball players. You can't put all the pressure on Tevita to roll his sleeves up and do the work."

Kuridrani will reunite with Christian Lealiifano for the Test in Brisbane, restarting the combination they've formed in the Brumbies' set-up.

Lealiifano replaces fellow Brumby Matt Toomua, who has been ruled out with concussion. Toomua backed Lealiifano to rise to the occasion in his first Test start in more than a year.

"If he does well, it's good for the team, and if that means I miss out a week later, then so be it," Toomua said.

"He was hampered a bit by his ankle, and kicking-wise, he struggled, but kickers only get remembered for stats, and I personally thought he improved.

"I am well and truly confident he's ready for this. He's played in big games and shown he's a big-game performer."

Chris Dutton is the sports editor at The Canberra Times.

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